BASF unveiling $33 million RTP addition today

Sep. 03, 2013 @ 09:04 PM

The German chemicals company BASF is unveiling a new $33 million wing at its complex in the Research Triangle Park on Wednesday that has bright greenhouses for genetically modified crop research as well as new offices and labs.

Most of the new construction is planned to house employees who are part of the company’s plant biotechnology division, which moved its global headquarters here from Germany after facing opposition in Europe to genetically modified crop development.
Employees are still in the process of moving into the new, approximately 80,000-square-foot addition to the 400,000-square-foot building, which is on Davis Drive in the RTP. The addition includes about 18,700 square feet of greenhouse space where the company plans to test genetic traits in crops and to produce seeds for research.
There are 14 different individual greenhouse compartments whose light, temperature, humidity and other conditions can be tightly controlled so scientists can replicate different global environments, said Nigel Armes, director of research and development operations and site services for BASF Corp. in the Research Triangle Park.
Armes led a tour of the new wing Tuesday. The tour was held before a grand opening ceremony planned for Wednesday. Elected officials including Gov. Pat McCrory are expected to attend.
Charles Whitt, a spokesman for BASF’s crop protection division, also said the greenhouses have technology that allows scientists to monitor and control conditions remotely.
In addition, the company is planning to add drip irrigation and fertilizer technology to help automate the process, saving scientists time, said Sheila Bhattacharya, lab manager for BASF’s plant biotechnology division in RTP.
Company officials showed off the greenhouses, new laboratory space, as well as an approximately 6,500-square-foot area in the basement to be used for storage and growth of insects used in testing pesticides.
The company is working with about 20 different species of insects from moths to cockroaches to bed bugs, Armes said.
He showed a room where the insects will be stored, another where plants are grown to feed to some insects, as well as a “kitchen” where food is prepared for certain species that consume an artificial diet.
BASF opened the facility on Davis Drive in 1986, and has about 700 workers employed there now. Between that location and two others, the company employs about 950 people in the Triangle.
The RTP site has seen the addition of some workers as operations have been consolidated elsewhere. In January, the company announced it was consolidating its U.S. non-crop herbicide, insecticide and fungicide businesses into a department called the BASF Specialty Products Department.
The specialty department is focused on chemicals for use on golf courses, by pest control companies or for use in nurseries or greenhouses in the ornamentals industry.
Also as part of the consolidation, BASF planned to move jobs for its pest control solutions business, which was based in St. Louis, to the Research Triangle Park.
Armes said the new construction will allow the company to renovate other parts of the building for other activities.
“The facility is designed for growth,” Whitt said.